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Microfinance, foreign aid, Commitment to Development Index, debt and debt relief
David Roodman, a former CGD senior fellow, worked at the Center from March 2002 to July 2013. His work at the Center focused on microfinance, debt relief, and aid effectiveness. His widely praised book Due Diligence confronts questions about the impacts of microfinance and how it should be supported. He wrote the book through a pathbreaking Microfinance Open Book Blog, where he shared questions, discoveries, and draft chapters.
Roodman was an architect and manager of the Commitment to Development Index since the project's inception in 2002. The Index ranks the world's richest countries based on their dedication to policies that benefit the 5 billion people living in poorer nations; it is widely recognized as the most comprehensive measure of rich-country policies towards the developing world.
Roodman wrote several papers questioning the capacity of common cross-country statistical techniques to shed light on what causes economic development. He co-authored a 2004 American Economic Review paper that challenged findings of World Bank research that aid works in a good policy environment. His non-technical Guide for the Perplexed builds on analysis of methodological problems and fragility in other studies. Among econometricians Roodman is best known for his computer programs that run in the statistical software package Stata; articles about them won him the inaugural Stata Journal editors' prize in 2012. Also in 2012, Roodman aged off the RePEc list of top young economists in the world, at number 6.
Microfinance is a widely celebrated strategy for helping poor people in the developing world. Leading microfinance institutions, including the Nobel Peace Prize-winning Grameen Bank, reach millions of clients. CGD research fellow David Roodman and Uzma Qureshi analyze why some microfinance institutions succeed in covering costs, earning returns, attracting capital, and scaling up. They conclude that financial imperatives can explain much about how microfinance products are designed, for example, the common emphasis on group lending to women. Thus the business acumen of microfinance innovators is underappreciated. But more rigorous study is needed to understand when and where these design choices help clients.
The Commitment to Development Index ranks 22 of the world’s richest countries on their dedication to policies that benefit the 5.5 billion people living in poorer nations. Moving beyond standard comparisons of foreign aid volumes, the CDI quantifies a range of rich-country policies that affect poor
people in developing countries.